Cat behavior

Cat Behavior is how cats interact with other cats, other animals, and their environment. The cat is one of the most vocal and expressive mammals. Its attitude towards other cats can be affectionate, aggressive, shy, and so on. Other animals often cue an intense interest from cats. Even a dog and a cat can become best friends if raised together; similarly with gerbils, birds and rabbits. And if a cat has never been outside, its reaction to the outside world is often surprised and fearful, yet strangely interested. Watching cat behavior, especially the body language and the vocalization, will help to decode its meaning.

Body language

Cats rely strongly on body language to communicate.

*Disgust — The lifting or constant shaking of a paw or paws. The more times the paw is shaken, the stronger the cat's feeling; this can sometimes be a four paw affair with each paw being lifted and shaken in turn. This behavior is possibly related to the identical action displayed after stepping into water. Displeasure at a situation can be shown by moving the ears back.

*Agitation or Aggression — the swishing or sweeping of the tail in a wide swath, in mid-air or against a person. Tail flicking indicates inner conflict, while wide tail swishing shows external conflict. Further irritation may result in the cat moving or leaving the room.

*ContentednessKneading with the paws on a person or, for example, a favorite blanket or sleeping spot. Young kittens knead their mother's nipples to stimulate the feeding reflex in her so that her milk flows for the kittens to suckle on. Cats may knead for a short or extended period of time; the extended period is sometimes interpreted by people as a sign of discomfort or restlessness, but it is more likely that the cat is happy. Most cats will demonstrate this for about ten minutes at the longest, although some have been known to knead and suckle on their favorite human's shirt or ear lobe over the course of an entire night. Researchers at Oxford University have demonstrated that cats derive immense pleasure from kneading, similar to the relaxing sensation for humans from snacking on favourite foods or being massaged.

*Relaxation — sprawling on the side or back and, possibly, rolling about; this may be seen, for example, when a person enters the room or stirs from their seat. Sometimes they roll over onto their back and shake their paws in the air. This behavior shows complete relaxation. The cat may display this at the same time as the person's movement.

*Affection — a pressing of the face or top of the head against a person's body (head rubbing), leaving a scent to mark the cat's territory; or rubbing in quick succession. Cats may also blink slowly as an expression of affection or security.cite web|url=http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/vet00/vet00050.htm|title=Cat Eye Blinking|date=2004-06-08|publisher=NEWTON] Many cats also use a question mark-shaped tail to show desire to greet someone they are fond of. They will also stretch to show they are content with their surroundings.

*Submission — Upon being approached, it will fall down on its side, indicating it is not seeking attention and is unwilling to put up a fight. Rolling on its back and wriggling about is also a demonstration of submission, but different in nature to a dog's submission. Cats submit only when they want to, not because they think they have to, and this action is a statement of a good deal of trust. It is not a request for belly strokes, which many cats intensely dislike.

* Interest and Rejection - The position of the ears communicates the degree of desire to engage with the situation around them. Ears up and moved slightly forward shows real interest in what is going on, while ears moved backward shows distaste and desire to not engage with the situation. Cats show disapproval by moving their ears back, an equivalent of a human frown. They also crouch and turn their back to the situation to indicate disinterest or unhappiness. A cat will either move a little or give a faint "meow" if it does not want to be picked up.

cent rubbing and spraying

This behavior is used primarily to claim ownership of something, although unlike male cats, female cats do not spray. Once male cats are neutered the "scent rubbing" or "spraying" will, in most cases, wear out or stop. Some male cats continue to spray if not neutered early enough.

Courting

Cats, compared to many other mammals, have a unique courting style. The first step in courtship is the female coming into season, or 'heat'. Male cats will be able to smell a female cat in heat miles away and will therefore be seeking her out. Males will fight mercilessly for the right to be the first to mate with the female. After the dominant male has left, the less dominant males will then each mate with the female in turn. It is therefore possible that even if a male cat loses first breeding rights, he can still be the father. This is also the reason that a litter of kittens can have two or sometimes even three fathers.

Vocal calls

*Purring — Purring is often a sign of contentment. Some cats purr when they are in extreme pain, or in labor, simply to try to calm themselves down. Purring therefore can be a sign of pleasure or pain; usually it is the former. Scientists have not yet been able to discover how purring works, but it is suspected that it is caused by minute vibrations in the voice box.
*Greeting — A particular sort of vocalization, such as a low meow or chirp, possibly with simultaneous purring.
*Distress — Mewing is a plea for help or attention often made by kittens. There are two basic types of this call, one more loud and frantic, the other more high-pitched. In older cats it is more of a panicky repeated meow.
*Attention — Often simple meows and mews in both older cats and young kittens. A commanding meow is a command for attention, food, or to be let out.
*Protest — Whining meows.
*Frustration — A strong sigh or exhaled snort.
*Happy — A meow that starts low then goes up and comes back down.
*Watching/Interest — Cats will often "chatter" or "chirrup" on seeing something of interest out of the window. This is sometimes attributed to mimicking birdsong to attract prey or draw others attention to it, but often birds are not present.

Righting reflex

The righting reflex is the ability for cats to land on their feet with little or no injury. They can do this more easily than other animals due to their flexible spine and lack of a collar bone. Cats also use vision and/or their vestibular apparatus to help tell which way to turn. They then can stretch themselves out and relax their muscles. Cats do not always land unharmed. They can break bones or die from excessive falls. [cite web
last =Adams
first =Cecil
title =Do cats always land unharmed on their feet, no matter how far they fall?
work =The Straight Dope
publisher = Chicago Reader
date =1996-07-19
url =http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_190.html
accessdate =2007-11-07
]

Food eating patterns

Cats are obligate carnivores, and can survive without vegetation. Felines in the wild will usually hunt smaller mammals regularly throughout the day to keep themselves nourished. Domestic cats, however, are used to a relaxed lifestyle and, therefore, will eat even smaller amounts, but more regularly. Because of this, the domestic cat's intestinal tract is longer due to the lack of need to digest quicklyFact|date=January 2008. Many cats will find and chew small quantities of long grass.

Food covering

Cats scratch at the ground around food to cover it, for three reasons. First it makes the food less visible to others, reducing its chances of being taken. Second it keeps insects off the food, and third by excluding sun and air circulation it slows the food's drying out. With too much covering the food will tend to mold, with not enough it will dry. Thus the covering behaviour varies according to the condition of the food, with food sometimes being well covered, sometimes lightly, and sometimes left uncovered.

Socialization

Kittens are naturally scared of people at first, but if handled and well cared for in the first 16 weeks, they will develop trust in the humans who care for them. For the ability to relate to other humans, kittens also need to be socialized at an early age, which consists of meeting a variety of humans and other domestic animals.

It is a challenge to socialize an adult feral cat. Socialized grown up feral cats tend to trust only those people they have learned over time can be trusted, and can be very fearful around strangers.

Cats can be extremely friendly companions. The strength of the cat-human bond usually depends on the human behaviour, whether the human is always gentle and considerate, takes time for affection when the cat wants and knows when to stop when the cat grows tired of it, responds to the cat's needs and wants, and appreciates the cat. The formula for a successful relationship thus has much in common with human to human relationships.

Some people regard cats as sneaky, shy, or aloof animals. Cats have an inherent distrust for predator species such as humans, and often seek to minimize any contact with people they do not perceive as trustworthy. Feline shyness and aggression around people with cat social skills is often a result of lack of socialization, abuse or neglect. Cats relate to humans differently to dogs, and enjoy some time on their own each day as well as time with humans.

Cats have a strong 'escape' instinct. Attempts to corner, capture or herd a cat can thus provoke powerful fear-based escape behavior. Socialization greatly reduces the number of humans that a cat will respond to in this way, socialization is a process of learning that many humans can be trusted.

ee also

* Cat communication
* Cat play and toys
* Ethology

References


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